What’s so great about walkable places?
Walkable places give you better health and a lower cost of living. Freedom from your car means lower gas and maintenance bills, and more free time.
Truly walkable places are mixed-use areas, generally with narrower lots, that feature shops and services along with residential housing. Ideally, they also offer community amenities such as parks, playgrounds, and libraries: places worth walking to.
At the town scale, walkable places also make a circular economy (circularity) possible. Circular systems aim for a closed-loop system that minimizes inputs of resources from elsewhere and outputs of waste and pollution. The shorter supply chain made possible in a place with production and consumption and hundreds of jobs on-site enhances circularity.
Nature Towns are complete places that include homes, shops, services and shared places such as recreation centers, community kitchens, and more, all within a short walk of every resident. (For a more comprehensive list, see Features.) Furthermore, many necessary items, from food to energy to clothing, can be produced on-site.
Nature Towns do mixed use the right way, integrating human-scale office, retail, and commercial spaces into residential areas so that destinations are close by, and valuable land is not wasted on extensive (and ugly) parking lots.
The concept of scale is important: we plan about 1280 homes for ~3000 people, sufficient to support a thriving local economy: enough customers for various restaurants, stores, coffee shops, bakeries, and so on. Business owners can live in the community and enjoy a “commute” of a 5- to 15-minute walk; some will occupy live-work units, apartments above their shops or offices. Buildings in the densest part of the village will not exceed four stories; most will be 2-3 stories. Single-family homes will likely be mostly 1-2 floors.
With pocket parks, larger parks, playgrounds, dog parks, and nature trails in close proximity, there is always someplace beautiful to walk to once the work day is done.
This regenerative place produces a much higher quality of life – at a lower cost. People in many cultures enjoy the tradition of going for a walk after dinner in the public square, where they encounter friends and acquaintances for a social evening. But few American cities – especially the suburbs – feature similar places. Many neighborhoods lack beautiful, public (free-of-charge) places where people can meet friends and spend time together.
Perhaps because our public spaces have degraded so much in quality and quantity, American homes have steadily become larger in recent decades. We compensate for the lack of public space by trying to put everything under our own roofs: mini-movie theaters, rec rooms and monster kitchens.
But ballooning house sizes have bloated mortgage payments and the municipal infrastructure needed to serve all these spread-out places, thus raising taxes and utility rates as well.
A town with smaller lots and houses has far lower municipal costs for providing water, wastewater and electrical utilities. With more houses per linear foot of street, there are more customers to pay for the length of water / electrical / cable line serving them. This is another way we keep the costs down.
More social life – and more time to enjoy it
You and your neighbors will get to know each other over time, as you see each other come and go and run into one another at the coffee shop or park. Our lives are enriched by spontaneous social interactions like the five-minute visit with the person walking the beautiful dog past your home every morning, or the chat with another parent while sitting on the bench watching your kids at the playground. These may not be people you ever make formal plans to meet with, but they enrich your day with social connections. And because so many of your daily needs are met by services nearby within the community, you have more time to relax and socialize.
Improved health & wellness
More free time means less stress, and less stress makes you feel better. Furthermore, your body will thank you as you integrate exercise into your everyday activities. Instead of thinking about how you “have to” go to the gym or a run as you get into your car yet another time, you will be exercising just by going about your daily routine. For a more intense workout, you can jog to the outdoor fitness equipment or take a run on the extensive trails, breathing fresh air produced by the nature surrounding your town.
With the excellent nutrition you receive from the fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy produced from minerally balanced soils on your community-owned farm, your health improves even more. And as your health and fitness levels go up, your healthcare costs go down.